Thursday, May 9, 2013

Defect-Driven QA Culture

July 28, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Some people will never be social.  Facebook and Twitter are like kryptonite — they will be avoided at all costs.  They have no interest in spreading the word around the globe about what they are thinking, feeling, suggesting, planning, or wondering.  So why would it be any different if they happen to develop software?

Internet software is going social whether you’re ready for it or not.  The idea of a Community Director, previously unheard of in IT, is catching on rapidly as product owners look to push the boundaries of how their brand interacts with the social internet.  Social Media itself is being defined by the very actions companies are taking in the name of social media.  You don’t really know it’s social media until it catches on and becomes social.  Rarely before has this business model been welcomed with the momentum currently achieved by social outlets.

A community is a much misunderstood idea.  Civilization, Einstein suggested, is a good idea; his suggestion being of course that humans haven’t yet achieved civilization.  If community is a microcosm of acting civil, wouldn’t the teams that create social media need to be, or need to be trending toward, social behavior themselves?  And wouldn’t the process used to create and test the software need to be social?

The process by which defects in code are discovered and normalized with the organization is called triage.  Three hats must be worn by at least three people in a software defect triage: product, tech, and QA.  All three people must be there, you cannot succeed with less.  Others are optional and may depend on the content of the defect (SMEs are often pulled in for defects covering deep data issues, warehousing, ad-ops, email delivery, or caching.)  Through this process of triage, a defect is trimmed, adjusted, and reinforced with the data and metadata (priority, severity, adjusted headline, adjusted content) for developers to know when and what to fix.

The process of triage is a social one.  It’s difficult to achieve triage by means of a tool like a spreadsheet or a series of emails.  Email is good for recordkeeping, but poor at problem solving.  Some people are simply scared of the phone or getting up and walking somewhere — you need to be able to huckle down and do these things for successful triage.  This aspect of QA is mostly communication with a pinch of process and proactivity.  Shed the self-image, tuck the arrogance under the rug, and iron your best humble-pie button-down: it’s about the software, it’s not about you.

In the Businessweek article , Felix Gillete speaks about how companies are rushing to hire social media directors and then figure out what they do.  Putting people first and position second is a wonderful approach, and one that I recommend for QA hiring: I have said it before and I’ll say it again, you can teach software development methods, but you can’t teach-in curiousity, you can’t teach-in caring, and you can’t teach-in motivation.  Hire the right people first, and the right skill-set second.  Getting the right people to create a social fabric of openness and welcome questioning on a QA team will help the triage process be easier and take less time.

David Armano blogs on Harvard Business Review that “A community manager actively monitors, participates in and engages others within online communities.”  If this sounds familiar, it’s because a QA manager actively monitors, participates in and engages others within all teams that support a software initiative.  The social requirements of both positions are nearly equal — the best QA Managers are genuine, caring, intelligent, goal-setters, and action-takers.

While tweeting defects to a dashboard may be a bit strange (and probably violate most company private data policies) the principles behind it are solid: make defects public, remove punishment from the equation, and treat each defect as an opportunity to improve not only the software under test, but the relationship between you and the developer.  Humor and intellect are the tools of the wise, try to work both into the defect discovery process of your product.

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